It’s cold and grey and everyone’s skint and/or ill. Welcome to January, the worst month for live music anywhere in the UK, even in the bustling capital.
But what’s this? Free (ish) music? On a Saturday lunchtime? In a warm, accessible venue, with tea and biscuits? Daylight Music is almost a gift from God.
For several years, the promoters at the Union Chapel have put on autumn and winter seasons of pay-what-you-like gigs. This week it’s a triple bill headlined by Judy Dyble’s new project with producer-bassist-DJ Andy Lewis. Bridging a 20-year age gap, their 2017 debut album Summer Dancing united the two in attitude, intellect and psychedelic experimentation, Dyble’s archive of unfinished lyrics paired with Lewis’ multi-layered arrangements.
The ‘band’ – Papernut Cambridge men Robert Rotifer and Ian Button on acoustic guitar and drums, viola player/backing singer Alison Cotton from The Left Outsides, guitarist/keyboardist Pete Twyman and Lewis’ wife Liz on samples and autoharp – have done just three shows in five months. Rehearsals have been minimal, but hey, they’re professionals, and from the casting of A Net Of Memories (London) – Petula Clark’s Downtown spiralised by a dreamy melancholy and tinkling folk song – we know we’re gonna be okay.
More than okay. Most who’ve seen Dyble before know she can be a nervous performer, often clinging to her lyric book for comfort. The book’s out, on a music stand, but the venue so suits Dyble’s cut-glass vocal – she’s clearly enjoying the songs and the company – that it’s the band that come over a little tense, careful to not overshadow their star player or blast a bum note.
Lewis does a great job of plucking Herbie Flowers-like bass lines and adding occasional throatiness (A Message’s heartsore ‘Darlin’ I miss ya’), while gently supervising the ensemble. There’s a Trader Horne cover, Velvet To Atone, and a new song, a cover of Nick Drake’s Northern Sky.
As clap-a-long knees-up The Day They Took The Music Away abruptly ends, it appears that Dyble – now 69, and lately in the UK album chart with Big Big Train – might be on the form of her life.